Former Golden Gopher standout Nicole Branagh and current beach volleyball teammate Elaine Youngs are continuing their quest to qualify for the 2008 Olympics this week at the Conoco Phillips Grand Slam Event in Norway.
Branagh and Youngs, who are the second-seeded team, have qualified for the quarterfinal round of the tournament, and will play in that round on Friday night against the team of Vasso Karadassiou and Vassiliki Arvanti from Greece.
The team of Branagh and Youngs are ranked sixth in the word with 4,300 points in a system that tracks their eight best international finishes since May 2007. FIVB will qualify the top two teams from each country for the Olympics in Beijing. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh are ranked No. 1 in the world, while Branagh and Youngs are currently second in points among U.S. teams.
The United States has possibly the hottest competition for its second spot in the Olympics. Branagh and Youngs currently occupy that spot with 4,300 points. April Ross and Jennifer Boss are in seventh place at 3,940, while Tyra Turner and Rachel Wacholder are in ninth at 3,580.
Along with Branagh and Youngs, May-Treanor/Walsh and Ross/Boss have qualified for the quarterfinals of the Conoco Phillips Tournament.
After the conclusion of the Conoco Phillips Grand Slam Tournament this week, there will only be two tournaments left that will apply towards the points that decided who qualifies for the Olympics. Those events are the Moscow Grand Slam Event on June 30-July 5 and the World Series 13 event in Marseille, France that will run from July 14-20.
Branagh was a four-year letterwinner at Minnesota. She holds the career-record for kills with 2,379, and had three of the top seven single-season kill totals (679 in 1999, 643 in 2000, 579 in 1998) in school history.